Monday, December 30, 2019

A Month in the Life: December 2019 (With Stats!)

And the 20-teens are all but over! In just a few days, we start the 2020s. I'm not going to do a whole decade-in-retrospect, but this has been one with some high highs (passing the bar! getting married!) and some low lows (struggling to find a job as a lawyer, trying to figure out what to do once I realized I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore). All in all, though, it's been a good ten years, and I'm looking forward to the next ten! But first, let's look back at the last month!

In Books...
  • Columbine: I was in 8th grade when Columbine happened, so it had a very real effect on how my adolescence played out. Even so, I ended up learning quite a lot about it that I didn't know before from reading this book. It's obviously a sensitive subject, but it's deeply researched and very well-written.
  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: Henry VIII is usually thought about in relation to his six wives, but he also had two sisters: one older (Margaret, who became Queen of Scotland), and one younger (Mary, who briefly became Queen of France). I was looking forward to learning more about them, but this is unfortunately one of the driest, least engaging Tudor biographies I've ever read. 
  • The Woodcutter: This is a fantasy story based on fairy tales, and it's fine? There's some attempt at establishing a world with a complex political environment, but that part never comes together. The plot moves quickly enough that it's entertaining to read, though quickly forgettable.
  • Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is amazing (highly recommend seeing it in person if at all possible), but the story of how it came to be painted is perhaps even more so. I'm no art historian, but Ross King makes sure the reader doesn't need to be to get engrossed in his book. So interesting!
  • House of Cards: I really liked the first couple seasons of the Netflix show when it came out, so I figured I should check out the original source material. Published in the late 80s in the UK, it's an entertaining if not particularly special political thriller, telling the story of Chief Whip Francis Urquhart's quest to destroy the Prime Minister who disappointed him and seize power for himself. I liked it but didn't love it.
  • Without A Prayer: One night in 2015, 19 year-old Lucas Leonard was whipped to death by a group that included his own parents and half-sister. In church! Susan Abshire's book traces the development of a small congregation into a cult where the members could find themselves doing such a thing. You can tell she's a reporter, it's long on facts and short on analysis, but the story is strong and compelling enough to mostly carry it.

In Life...
  • New York City weekend with my mom: My mom really wanted to go see the Moulin Rouge! musical, so I went with her for a quick weekend in the Big Apple. We had an amazing time! Besides the show (which was fantastic), we saw the New York City Philharmonic do a live performance of the score to Harry Potter along with the movie, went to the Met, and (of course) went to The Strand...we got lots of steps in!

One Thing:

I'm generally pro-musical theater, but I'll confess I've never seen or had much interest in seeing CATS. When the first trailer for the movie came out a few months ago, I laughed at how weird the CGI looked and figured it would be not very good. Watching the reviews come in over the internet, though, was a delight...if just for the humor of baffled critics trying to articulate how very bad it was. This piece rounds up some of the best ones.

Gratuitous Pug Picture:

Year-End Bonus Stats!

I do my primary stats round-up in my yearly summary post on my birthday, but since I started using the Rock Your Reading Tracker by Sarah's Book Shelves, I've added in some end-of-year bonus stats that it tracks. It's fun to look at trends in my reading that I never would have thought to include for myself, which is one of the reasons I buy and recommend the tracker!

My reading this year was pretty steady: I read 7 books every month but four: 6 each in June and December, 5 each in May and October. I haven't read as many gigantic books this year, which usually will noticeably drop my monthly totals. Nor was there any particular time this year when I really dove into reading.

I read almost entirely backlist: Once again, my reading was over 80% backlist. I really do just prefer waiting for most new books to come out and develop a track record before deciding whether I want to read them. I do sometimes find hidden gems that never really take off among my frontlist reads, but backlist is just so much more likely to be satisfying!

I'm good at picking out books for myself: My most successful source of books I wind up enjoying? Just browsing in secondhand stores and Kindle sales. I've generally developed a good sense of the kind of thing I like at this point. Second-most successful source was trusted authors (particularly noticeable because 77% of my reading this year was new-to-me authors!), and third was Jaclyn Day, who posts about books on her Instagram.

I don't read a lot of series: When I was younger I went more for a series, but these days I tend strongly towards standalones. Only 15% of the books I read in 2019 were from a series!

Most books I read are 300-400 pages long: This is the book length I tend to prefer, so I wasn't surprised to see that just about 40% of my reading fit into this range. My reading actually came close to being a bell curve, with equal numbers of books falling on either side of it. I was actually a little surprised about that, as I tend to think of myself as someone who really likes long books!


  1. Moulin Rouge was so fun! I liked how they worked so many recent-ish pop songs into the lyrics, it seemed very targeted to people who are mine and my sister's age.

    1. It was a really enjoyable show! I agree, I liked the addition of some newer pop music, and I know my mom enjoyed the Sympathy for the Devil song they gave the Duke!

  2. I love the stats! I read mostly backlist too. I think I read two 2019 books this year. Happy 2020!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. I usually read about one frontlist release per month so I can feel like I'm keeping up at least a little with the new stuff!